Review: The Independent

by Adam Bezigian on February 28, 2011

Biscuits with gravy

I am terrified of change. Any part of my daily routine that falls out of its well-worn daily path is enough to fill me with rage and despair, shivering in cold corners until the sun sets and I can become a bat. Think, then, how scary the changing of the guards at the beloved Union Square institution, The Independent, is for me.

A brand-new menu with a brand-new chef is either exciting or terrifying, depending on your level of risk tolerance. The croque-monsieur was a long-time favorite and for good reason; the Independent’s rendition was an extraordinarily generously portioned ham sandwich, covered with cheese and as if that were not the bee’s knees, you could get a fried egg on it for a dollar. It went the way of the dinosaur, alongside some other less porcine standbys.

IF YOU ARE HOLDING YOUR BREATH UP TO THIS POINT, YOU CAN NOW CONTINUE BREATHING. Several months after the great shift, The Independent remains as exciting as ever. If anything, chef Mark Cina has moved its fare closer to that of its highbrow sister, The Foundry.

The croque-monsieur gave way to a delicious and mild homemade lamb merguez sausage that will not touch the plate once lifted. You’ll also find some new ‘small plates’ (what normal people call appetizers) that raise the bar in overall food quality. Not that The Independent was ever a dive – not with 32 constantly shifting draughts – but this is better than straight up bar fare, much better than you’ll find around (though, see: Lord Hobo).

Most notable is the crispy pork belly, a deeply personal exploration of what it is to enjoy a pig. Oysters maintain their timeless appeal, and the briouats were precisely what they were supposed to be: hot, crispy, and savory. The only slight letdown was the charcuterie. The meat itself was absolutely fine (we had smoked duck, sweetbreads, and chicken liver terrine, though these change at the chef’s whim) but the accoutrements were lacking.

The real winner on the entrée portion of the menu is the gnocchi with oxtail. The texture of the (fresh as hell) gnocchi may not be al dente enough for some, but the entire effect of the dish was rich and satisfyingly hearty. The pan roasted cod was delightfully fresh, though not an explosion of flavor. The cheeseburger, an artifact from the previous menu, was left essentially unchanged and remains a solid staple. Lastly, Post Somerville would like to call it: spaetzle is the new “thing.” We ride the zeitgeist like a jaded California beach bum would the waves of the cold, blue Pacific.

Brunch is not to be ignored, either. You can find a killer egg croissant sandwich and some unexpectedly fennel-y biscuits and gravy. An astute diner noted that eggs Benedict is a fools errand, since you can only screw it up with poorly poached eggs and clumpy Hollandaise. You will find no such failure at The Independent.

My great fear of losing a beloved establishment to the rushing tide of mediocrity has been assuaged. I am “totes” excited to check out the rest of the menu, which will likely change with time as the kinks are worked out. One of the gems of Union Square remains as brilliant as ever.

Adam Bezigian writes restaurant reviews for Post Somerville. You can contact him at

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

britt March 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM

That sounds delicious. I am pleased.

But I have always wondered, “What happens to the rest of the ox?”

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